“When Lambo”? “When Moon”?: A Global Crypto Framework Is Round the Corner!

    • By,
      Udaibir Saran Das – Visiting Faculty, Kautilya

Written By: Udaibir Das, Distinguished Non-Resident Fellow National Council of Applied Economic Research and Visiting Faculty Kautilya School of Public Policy

The global community is searching for a unified policy approach toward crypto assets, and India is emerging as a leader in such a framework. The G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors tasked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Financial Stability Board (FSB) last week in Bengaluru to develop a joint “synthesis” paper on the crypto asset ecosystem within seven months. India has also rightly insisted that any policy approach must go beyond regulation and supervision and cover the macroeconomic aspects of crypto assets. A new international financial standard is thus attainable by the end of India’s G20 presidency.

India’s concern around the global regulation of the ‘cryptoverse,’ which includes all economically relevant crypto-related offerings, is sensible, and its urgency in this matter is justified. In just a few years, the ‘cryptoverse’ has grown from a few digital assets to numerous cryptocurrencies and assets, art mediums, and more technology-based experiments are underway.

The discourse around the growth of the ‘cryptoverse’ is divided. Proponents argue that crypto can be a tool to promote social equity and sustainability. Others dismiss this notion as a bold claim until more is understood and regulations get established.

Nevertheless, this division has yet to deter the growth of the ‘cryptoverse.’ Some estimates put the total market capitalization at about $3 trillion — a small part of the global financial system but proliferating. The evolving ‘cryptoverse’ shows sizable operational disparity across markets. Over 6,000 tokens are moving around, and new crypto products are launched daily. The trading volumes are comparable with some traditional asset classes. Concerning this, the liquidity and pricing profile is ominously straddling between volatility and illiquidity.

Indeed, to address this, institutions and sovereigns have tried to regulate parts of the ‘cryptoverse.’ For example, the Basel, Madrid, and Paris-based financial standard-setting bodies have been attempting to fathom crypto assets’ supervisory risk dimensions. Similarly, the IMF has been pointing out risks to capital flow management and has recently discussed what could be some elements of effective policies for crypto assets. Some have heeded this warning and implemented comprehensive regulations (Japan and Switzerland), while others are in the preliminary stages (E.U., UAE, U.K, and the USA). However, these are independent or ad hoc frameworks rather than one guided by a unified global framework.

Why is a global approach the way to go?

First is the fact that the ‘cryptoverse’ is without borders. Each new crypto tool scales up through a different channel and crosses into new domains and territories. Such operating mechanics limit the effectiveness of national approaches. Uncoordinated growth will only alter the composition and mode of retail capital flows, distort external sector accounts, put financial stability at risk, and impair consumer confidence.

Second is the ‘cryptoagion risk’ (contagion and cross-border spillovers). The cryptoagion risk is high without universally agreed technological and legal specifications and prudential definitions of exposures and counterparties. Capital flow and macroprudential measures or foreign exchange management tools are not designed for the ‘cryptoverse.’ They will be blunt instruments to control aby dislocation in global financial flows via the ‘cryptoverse.’ Some G20 members also face a monetary management risk in the case of currency substitution through crypto assets (akin to dollarization).

Third is the need for consistent and uniform data and the ironing out of accounting, collateral, and valuation problems across markets. The data gap problem comes atop data gaps and consistency issues in the regulated sector. Should this uniformity be based on the principle “same activity, same risk, same regulation?” The jury is out, but what is clear is that the market overseers and the consumer need a better quantitative handle on ‘cryptoverse’ activities.

With these three concerns in mind, what will it take for a global approach to succeed, and how can the G20 play a role in this? Undoubtedly international consensus is inherently complex, especially on issues requiring timely and consistent implementation. As India pushes the agenda, it should keep the ‘C’s in view:

(i) Comprehensive. The new guidance must be analytically and conceptually strong. It must cover the legal, tax, and prudential aspects as well as technological, accounting, and judicial prerequisites — a piecemeal response (such as just on regulation) will spur crypto actors to walk through the loopholes.

(ii) Compliance. The post-G20 standard must be enforceable and put to work early. To signal that the G20 leaders are fully committed, a program like the World Bank-IMF Financial System Assessment Program or the Basel Committee’s novel Regulatory Consistency Assessment Program (with the involvement of FATF) should become global mechanisms for the observance of international crypto norms.

(iii) Consistency. Communication and ‘crypto literacy’ are vital to explain and shape consumer behavior, especially in advancing and lesser-developed economic systems. A streamlined set of concepts and definitions are essential. It will facilitate implementation, communication with crypto users, and disclosure.

Suppose India and the G20 are successful by the end of the year and a uniform and comprehensive approach comes about, it may reassure the users of cross-border financial services that the next global financial crisis need not originate out of the ‘cryptoverse.’ Meanwhile, the widespread use of crypto products and services must be managed early and globally coordinated before a systemic risk arises. A well-designed, adequately communicated, and effectively implemented G20 global framework is a step in the right direction.

  • *’Moon’ and ‘Lambo’ have become part of the crypto parlance. A digital asset is said to be going to the “Moon” when the asset holder believes that dramatic price increases are likely. The phrase “Lambo” is a way to ask a crypto asset holder when they will sell and become rich (Lambo is a take on the expensive, super luxurious car Lamborghini). The usage was common around 2017 — a year when values spiked to create a milestone in the cryptocurrency’s long story.

*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.